MUMBAI: When a corporate executive recently landed in the emergency ward of Hiranandani Hospital in Powai with palpitations, doctors first checked his heart. When tests ruled out any cardiac problem, they found an unlikely culprit—too many cups of green tea. “After talking to him, we realized he had had over a dozen cups of green tea within the span of a few hours,” said cardiologist Ganesh Kumar.
Some brands of green tea contain caffeine, an agent that boosts heart rate. “Green tea is supposed to be a natural agent to control blood pressure, weight, etc, but everything has to be consumed in the right measure,” Dr Kumar said.
As the natural or herbal revolution gains in popularity, doctors believe it’s time to sound a health warning, especially to patients already on various allopathic medications. Studies have shown that seemingly harmless suppleme nts can have dangerous side-effects when consumed in excess.
Garlic is a natural way to keep BP in check, but it may not always be good for those taking blood-thinning pills.
Similarly, using fenugreek seeds in your food is the natural and easiest way to control the release of sugar (from your food) into the bloodstream. But, as nutritionist Shilpa Joshi has found among diabetic patients, the tendency is to be liberal in using the methi seeds. “Some add so much of fenugreek to their food that their blood sugar drops all of a sudden to alarming levels,” she said.
The latest edition of ‘Alternative and Complementary Therapies‘ has pharmacist Catherine Ulbricht from Massachusetts General Hospital spelling out the potential dangers of mixing herbal supplements and therapeutic agents; their interaction can diminish or increase drug levels. “‘Natural’ does not equal ‘safe,'” she said in the article. “If something has a therapeutic action in a human body, this substance can also cause a reaction or an interaction,” she added.
Her article lists out common examples such as an increased risk of significant bleeding associated with garlic, ginkgo, ginger, and saw palmetto supplements; decreased blood sugar as a result of cinnamon, whey protein and others; hormonal effects of dong quai and saw palmetto; and elevated blood pressure caused by hawthorn and green tea.
A study by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in 2006 showed that many “harmless” supplements could have dangerous side-effects. An article in the February 2006 issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found approximately 55% of plastic surgery patients (compared to 24% of the general public) took supplements but did not tell their surgeons. “Chondroitin is often used to treat osteoarthritis. People using chondroitin may suffer from bleeding complications during surgery, particularly when used in combination with doctor-prescribed blood-thinning medications,” the piece said. “Ephedra has been known to promote weight loss, increase energy and treat respiratory tract conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. This agent has been banned by the US Food and Drug Administration because it can raise blood pressure, heart rate and metabolic rate, ultimately causing heart attacks, heart arrhythmia, stroke and even death,” the study added.
But there are some like nutritionist Naini Setalvad who maintain that natural is totally safe.
“There are no side-effects to natural supplements. It is all a ploy of the pharmaceutical industry to check the growing popularity of natural herbs and supplements,” she said.
Most Indian patients have their grandmother’s nuska packed in their medicinal chest, and use haldi as a disinfectant or ginger as an antiseptic. Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Sanjeev Agarwala, who heads the department at Hinduja Hospital, said, “We are more comfortable with natural supplements than with proprietary (branded) drugs because of our heritage that is steeped in Ayurveda. But there is little scientific evidence to support this belief.” He offers a scientific reason to doubt the natural-is-safe claim: “Most herbal and natural supplements are alkaloid in nature and could be poisonous unless proven otherwise.”
According to nutritionist Shilpa Joshi, people should always inform their doctors about the supplements they are taking. “We take natural or Ayurvedic stuff thinking these are ghar ka nuska, but if taken with other medications and in high concentrations, it can be potent. If we consult doctors on such issues, the doctor can change the dosages of either his medication or give the right amount of supplements that is needed for the patient concerned.” In others, customise the dosages of herbal supplements and branded drugs.
Commonly used supplements
Ephedra or somlata, which Ayurvedic physicians believe was the source of somras, is widely used to control asthma, heart problems, rheumatism.
Ginkgo biloba, found in Kashmir as Aziz tree, is used to treat brain disorders, enhance memory or control vitiligo (a skin disease).
Saw palmetto is a berry grown in California but widely available in India to control early baldness.
Side-effects if taken in excess
Bleeding and coagulation | Garlic, ginkgo, ginger and saw palmetto are known to increase the risk of bleeding. These supplements should be discontinued two weeks before surgery, including dental surgery.
Blood sugar | Herbs and supplements that have shown to specifically decrease blood sugar are flaxseed (linseed), cinnamon, whey protein and fenugreek (methi). Diabetic patients need to take these under medical advice. Coca and coca may increase blood sugar.
Hormonal effects | Herbs and supplements such as dong quai (Chinese herb used to reduce PMS), red clover, soy and saw palmetto have androgenic as well as antiandrogenic (male hormone) effects and estrogenic as well as antiestrogenic (female hormone) effects and many other hormonal effects.
Blood pressure | There is a risk of hypertension with ephedra, but even green tea and hawthorn (thorn apple) and mistletoe present the same risk.
Butea Superba has the characteristics of being a crawling vine that wraps itself around large trees.
Austin, Texas: Let’s talk about sex, baby – help is just an SMS away for young people in Mozambique
Nearly 36 000 young Mozambicans have signed up for SMS-based health counselling but will the new technology curb HIV infections?
“When I was younger, like 17, I was shy to talk to my parents so I would end up talking to my friends about sex. They used to tease me saying, ‘you are late, you should start having sex,’ ” says Alfabeto Chiloveque.
“They were always bragging about sleeping with different girls, and called me weak.”
He was not convinced. “Their reasoning didn’t make sense to me. Then I spoke to a counsellor at school who told me more about sex and relationships.”
Sitting in the office he shares with his colleagues in the Mozambican capital of Maputo, Chiloveque (20) shakes his head, laughing.
“My friends were wrong. The reason they could not tell me why I was supposed to start having sex at that age was because they also didn’t know,” he says.
“Now they are the ones coming to talk to me.”
Chiloveque is one of a dozen counsellors who respond to questions from young people through SMS BIZ, an interactive short message service (SMS) that provides counselling on sexual and reproductive health issues, including HIV.
Today, his friends are not the only ones coming to him for advice. More than 250km away in Chibuto, Soares Mutambe (20) recently signed up to SMS BIZ.
“I used to wake up wet and I didn’t know why. I thought it was a disease,” says the grade 10 learner, shyly describing night-time ejaculations (wet dreams) that can be common during adolescence and early adulthood.
“I sent a message to SMS BIZ and learnt that it is normal.”
Health goes mobile
Globally, about 80% of countries are using mobile and wireless technologies to support the achievement of health objectives (mHealth), according to a 2011 World Health Organisation (WHO) survey. The huge growth in cellular network coverage has helped fuel mHealth’s rise. The WHO report notes that the bulk of the world’s more than five billion cellphone users are in low and middle income countries.
Many countries are using the technology to tackle culturally sensitive matters such as sexual and reproductive health.
“We have seen that young people are shy to talk about issues of sexual and reproductive health. This is worse in rural areas where they have limited access to information,” says Francelino Murela, from the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), which supports the programme that now reaches about 36 000 young people.
“SMS BIZ does not require a smart phone with access to the internet (so) anyone who has a mobile phone can use the service. All they have to do is register, then they can send their texts to our counsellors for free.”
The programme targets people between the ages of 10 and 24 and “especially girls, because they are most affected by HIV”.
Mozambique has an HIV prevalence rate of 11% among adults aged 15 to 49, according to UNAids. This rate is higher in women (13%) than in men, who only have a 9% prevalence rate.
Women also typically get infected earlier than men do. HIV prevalence among young women aged 15 to 24 is almost three times higher (11.1%) than that among men in the same age group (3.7%).
Unicef supports similar SMS programmes in other countries, including Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Nigeria, where the platform shares information about diseases such as Ebola and polio.
Measuring the impact
The direct effect of SMS programmes is unclear. Unicef’s 2015 annual report notes that an evaluation found that Zambian SMS-based campaigns had no “significant impact” on the uptake of medical male circumcision. Medical male circumcision can reduce a man’s risk of contracting HIV through vaginal sex by about 60%, according to UNAids.
A 2014 article in the journal Global Health Action, which reviewed studies of several mHealth programmes in low and middle income countries, calls for more detailed studies on the effect of mobile technologies on health outcomes.
The review finds that, when it comes to mHealth, “evidence of effectiveness is both mixed and scant”. For example, the article describes an SMS-based support group in South Africa for women with diabetes. It notes that while women were linked with buddies to support their treatment and care through SMS, the project was unable to demonstrate significant changes in the women’s health after six months.
Researchers also argue that while some SMS systems have helped HIV patients stay on treatment, text-based messages have largely failed to curb HIV risk behaviours such as unsafe sex. The Global Health Action article also shows that gender disparities in mobile phone ownership can restrict access to SMS mHealth programmes. In Uganda, for example, “women were less likely to own a mobile phone, so were less likely to directly benefit from SMS education”.
Data collected since the SMS BIZ programme was launched in Mozambique in October last year, show low levels of HIV knowledge among users. These levels are similar to UNAids figures that show only 48% of women and 63% of men aged 15 to 49 had accurate knowledge about how HIV was spread.
In cases where data showed SMS BIZ users had correct HIV knowledge, this did not translate into behaviour change, says Murela. “Although they knew that HIV can be transmitted through sexual intercourse, some of the users indicated that they still engaged in unprotected sex.”
Murela is hopeful. Judging by the high rate of engagement with users on the programme, he believes that, in time, the service will lead more young people to make informed choices when it comes to their sexual health.
Jacksonville, Florida: Malawians demonstrate against abortion, same sex marriage
Thousands of mainly Christian protesters have taken to the street of two cities in Malawi to demonstrate against proposals to legalize abortion and homosexuality in the country.
The peaceful marches were organised by Catholic and evangelical churches in Malawi, where sex and homosexuality are largely taboo subjects.
“The Malawian people have sent a clear message, a message to their leaders, to the members of the Parliament: they say ‘no’ to abortion. Why are they refusing abortion? Because it is contrary to our cultural values. It is contrary to our religious values. It is anti-Malawi, anti-Christian,” said Henry Saindi Secretary General of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi.
The Malawian people have sent a clear message, a message to their leaders, to the members of the Parliament: they say ‘no’ to abortion.
“We joined our Christian brothers because the problems of abortion and gay marriage are of fundamental problems and the practices is prohibited in Islam. The Koran expressly prohibits abortion and gay marriages,” said Osman Kariam, Secretary General of the Quadria Muslim Association.
Among the placards they carried were signs that read, “A nation that kills its children is a nation without hope,”
Leading the protest was the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, an arm of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Evangelical Association of Malawi, an umbrella body of 122 Christian denominations.when the pregnancy results from rape, incest or defilement; and when there is severe malformation of the fetus.
San Francisco, California: Sex work thrives in Zimbabwe
Dressed in a tiny white skirt and a top, Linda, 16, (not her real name) struts into a nightclub in Madlambuzi, a sprawling rural settlement in Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland South Province. Swinging to the deafening music, she scans the room for potential customers.
She joins a group of visibly drunk girls with pints of clear beer in their hands. Sex work is a last resort of girls desperate to make a living in this poverty-stricken village, or just to “get money to feed our families,” Linda said.
“I was deported as an illegal emigrant from Botswana in December last year, where I used to work as a maid. I have no means of getting money to feed myself and my little child. This is why I am here,” she said.
“My parents died two years ago, and I am the one responsible to fend for my two siblings and my only child. They look forward to me to bring food home. There are no jobs here, [and] food is very expensive,” she added.
Gordon Chavhunduka, sociologist and political commentator, said Zimbabwe’s “social fabric is fast collapsing, just the way the economy is. It’s sad that people, especially the vulnerable ones – let alone young girls – would do terrible things just to survive in this economy. It’s a sad story.”
Linda has many difficulties to contend with besides soaring food prices and the rocketing inflation that has sent the economy into a tailspin, but worst, she feels, is facing criticism from her neighbours and relatives for selling her body.
According to village elders, sex work has been spreading rapidly in rural Matabeleland, especially where there are drinking spots or nightclubs.
“These girls are a disgrace. We know survival is not easy, especially considering that commodities are expensive in shops and there are no jobs, both here [countryside] and in towns, but selling their bodies is wrong,” said Methuseli Dumani, a village elder.
“We have tried talking to some of them to abandon their evil deeds but they would not listen. Each time the sun sets, you see them trickling in [the club] and start soliciting. We don’t know how they can be stopped, at least for the preservation of our culture, which disapproves of prostitution,” he added.
Linda and her colleagues know they are seen as immoral people, but say they have no choice. “I know what I am doing is wrong – it is even forbidden in the Bible – but there is no other means through which I can make a living. If I don’t go out and sell my body, then my family will starve. Relatives and neighbours say I am a disgrace, but when I go to them and ask for maizemeal or money to help the family, they just look aside; yet they love to be critical.”
After a while, Linda gets a “customer”, a bald-headed man old enough to be her father, and disappears with him.
‘Anita’, another sex worker, said the poverty ravaging Matabeleland often forced girls as young as 13 to sell their bodies.
“Save for those who have breadwinners in South Africa and Botswana, many families here have no one looking after them at all. Many of us dropped out of school because our parents could not afford the school fees,” she said.
If I don’t go out and sell my body, then my family will starve
Anita is adamant that she understands the dangers of sex work. “Everyone knows there is AIDS; it has actually killed a lot of people here, and some are even ill right now. I am personally afraid of the disease and I always insist on the use of condoms,” she said.
“For an all-night session, I charge something like Z$200,000 [US$8 at the informal market rate], and half that amount for a short-time session, which normally lasts for only two hours,” Anita explained. “Our customers are normally truck drivers who deliver beer from Bulawayo, and those who go or come from Botswana to deliver or collect some goods.”
An official of the Matabeleland AIDS Council said a recent survey in southern Zimbabwe had revealed that rural Matabeleland was worst affected by the AIDS pandemic, mainly because of its proximity to South Africa and Botswana. According to 2005 UN estimates, HIV prevalence among people aged 15-49 was 18.8 percent in South Africa and 24.1 percent in Botswana, with Zimbabwe estimated at 20.1 percent.
“Many people in this province work in Botswana and South Africa. Often it is a single partner of the family, say a husband or a wife, and because they stay away from their partner for long, they end up engaging in extramarital relationships, which have the potential of spreading the virus,” the official told IRIN.
“Prostitution is another cause [of spreading HIV infection], and it is sad that we are seeing it rearing its head in rural areas,” he said. “It just shows how desperate people are.”
Columbus, Ohio: Prostitution – Yasmine: Sex, Islam and White overalls
Yasmine, the head of a pornographic production company and a young actress, talks to Afrik-news.com about her porn star past and explains her choices. An encounter.
Paris — Sporting a fitted black raincoat, Yasmine sits poised behind a table in a café and blows puffs of smoke while staring nonchalantly into space. A waitress tiptoes behind her paying attention not to disturb Yasmine’s reverie. “A glass of Sauvignon, please,” she orders as she rests her cigarette on the ashtray before her. Her makeup is discreet and her clothes are businesslike, a far cry from her porn star reputation.
A common young woman
Brushing away a lock of hair from her forehead, Yasmine declares, “People sometimes judge me and insult me because of my job. But I’m a balanced woman. Even if I am a Muslim, it doesn’t prevent me from being a porn star and from loving my job!”. Growing up as a teenager on the outskirts of Lyon and raised by a very observant Muslim family, the young woman of Moroccan descent had not as much as dreamt of one day becoming a porn star.
“I received a very strict upbringing. My parents didn’t want me to go out, so I stayed at home and did what was expected of me,” she recalls. About her childhood and teenage years she will not say more. It must be her sense of modesty. At 18, after her high school diploma, Yasmine said goodbye to her family home. She worked as a waitress to pay for her nursing studies. “I didn’t go out much at the time. I almost had no friends. I was alone in my own world,” she recalls.
White coat and black latex
Then, at 23 she meets her first love and lover, Alex. The young man introduces her to libertine clubs: “an unknown universe”. “We never talked about sex at home, it was a taboo. The first time I had my menstrual period, my mother slapped me,” she reveals. Yet for Yasmin, being Muslim and loving sex has never been an antinomy. “Arab writings are full of erotic scenes. I do what I love. And if I have to justify myself, it’s only to God!”, she defends. A nurse in white overalls during the day, a libertine in a sexy negligé at night. A double life she “fully assumes”: “I wasn’t ashamed of what I was doing. In fact, the only uncomfortable thing for me was to go out with a guy without being married .” And yet, Yasmine did not tell her family about her night activities and her lover. “They wouldn’t have understood: a religious issue,” she says.
And one day, she saw an ad in a magazine that read: “A small production seeks couple for pornographic scenes”. Yasmine jumped on the bandwagon. More opportunities came her way after that with a TV station making a documentary about her. “I thought about it for a while before accepting the deal as I knew that my parents would know about it,” she says, nervously lighting up an other cigarette. Since that day, Yasmine has not spoken to her family, except to her sister who “she sees from time to time.” “I had to make a choice and that’s what I did,” the actress explains.
She later became the famous producer Marcel Dorcel‘s muse and worked with the biggest names in the porn production, swapping her nurse outfit for wild lingerie. Among her movies: Fuck VIP Cockaine, Yasmine at women’s prison and Yasmine: sex for cash.
After an international career she decided to end her porn acting career in February 2009 to dedicate her time to more traditional films as well as producing her own pornographic films. “I wanted to leave in full glory,” says she.
Judge: Rape facilitates a natural society where men are protectors
Yasmine plays a liberated woman in Danielle Arbid’s Homme Perdu and a prostitute in Oliver Marshall’s MR 73. “These characters are like labels,” she states amusingly. It is 10 pm. Her mobile phone rings. Yasmine has to leave. It is time for her to join her fiance.
Indianapolis, Indiana: Court hands death penalty to man charged with murder
FAISALABAD: Court awarded death sentence to an accused for his involvement in a murder case in Faisalabad on Monday.
The decision was announced by Additional District and Sessions Judge Rana Shaukat Ali.
The prosecution told the court that the accused Sajid and his accomplices Manzoor, Abid and Mubashir had murdered a man Arshad over an old enmity a few years ago.
The local police registered a case against the accused and presented the challan before the court. After hearing the arguments, the judge handed down death sentence to Sajid along with a fine of Rs0.4 million as compensation money. However, the court acquitted Manzoor, Abid and Mubashir over lack of evidence. The accused was sent to District Jail Faisalabad.
Earlier on February 25, 2017, court awarded death sentence to an accused for his involvement in a murder case in Sargodha. The judgment was announced by Additional District and Sessions Judge Chaudhary Muhammad Tariq.
Accused Hassan Sher, resident of Jabbi village, Tehsil Johrabad, had killed a man Munawwar Shahzad over tongkat ali well-being a petty dispute in July 2015.
The local police registered a case against the accused and presented the challan before the court